There are two primary methods of harnessing the sun: concentrating solar power (also known as solar thermal energy) and photovoltaics. Sunlight may look like an easy way to generate electricity, especially in remote areas without easy access to transmission lines. But there are drawbacks. The sun only shines for a set number of hours daily, and cloudy or overcast conditions can wreak havoc on solar power production. Without an effective way to store electricity for nighttime and cloudy day use, a solar system’s effectiveness remains limited.

Cost has been a long-standing barrier, though the outlook in that area looks brighter. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a study in late 2009 showing PV installation costs over the last decade had dropped more than 30 percent—and more than 4 percent of the drop occurred in 2008 alone.

Solar power can serve as an excellent supplement to an existing grid. As costs continue to drop you may want to research the long-term benefits of adding a system to your home.

The following websites contain important information regarding solar generation:

Find Solar »

US Department of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy »

Minnesota Department of Commerce »

Solar Electric Power Association.

Download the Iowa Energy Center's Solar PV Energy Guide

Solar Distributed Generation: Questions to Ask Your Solar Vendor

Solar Distributed Generation: Myths vs. Facts

Other options

If you have considered installing renewable energy to power your home, but are not comfortable with the long-term investment, Evergreen is a great alternative. Evergreen is a renewable energy program available for homes, farms or businesses.

Learn more about Evergreen »